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Attorney for Ticketed Veteran Files Court Pleading

Aaron and his service dog, Captain. (Facebook)

Aaron and his service dog, Captain. (Facebook)

Alameda criminal defense attorney Barbara Thomas, attorney for Aaron Colyer, who was cited in Alameda in July for sleeping in his van as a homeless veteran, has filed a court pleading asking for the case, and the applicable ordinance, to be tossed.

The demurrer was filed in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this week and sent to Janet Ahren City Attorney for Alameda, and Paul Rolleri, Chief of Police, City of Alameda, in advance of a scheduled October 10th hearing at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse.

Colyer went public with video of his exchange with Alameda police officers on the night he received the ticket, and vowed to fight it, saying that he was essentially cited for homelessness.

Thomas, for her part, pleads in the filing that Alameda’s ordinance proscribing human habitation in a vehicle is unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and allows for discriminatory policing.

She wrote:

It appears that eating, sitting or resting in each and every one of the defined vehicles as well as some undefined vehicles if an officer decides to include it, house car, camper, trailer coach, camp car or mobilehome has been made illegal in the City of Alameda between the hours of 10:00 pm and 06:00 am. The ordinance criminalizes everyone who eats a hamburger purchased from McDonalds in a house car or mobilehome after 10PM, and thereby creates the prohibited “occupancy” whatever that is interpreted to mean. How are visitors to know that stopping due to mechanical breakdown may be made legal, if one simply notifies APD? Is it posted? What about exhaustion of the driver? Must that person keep driving no matter how unsafe rather than park on a public street to “rest” thereby becoming an “occupant”? And how does having an approved toilet change the foregoing? Occupancies with approved toilets are OK between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am?

The ordinance makes no effort to link its inquiry of criminality to protect the public good by triggering response to a complaint of a suspicious vehicle parked in a residential neighborhood. It is up to each officer to decide for him or herself how and against whom to enforce this ordinance. That very arbitrariness makes the ordinance unconstitutional.

Thomas also cites a United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling in Deserttrain v. City of Los Angeles which threw out an ordinance in that city banning the use of a vehicle as “living quarters.”

That ruling was handed down in June, and the City of Los Angeles has withdrawn its ordinance.

Thomas is likewise asking the court to force the City of Alameda to withdraw it’s “human habitation in a vehicle” ordinance, dismiss Colyer’s citation, and award fees.

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